From Azure stack and Microsoft 365 to renewed vertical focus and the ways technology is helping do real good in our world, Microsoft Inspire 2017, held in Washington DC last week, offered up an action packed week for Kiwi channel partners.
The release of the Microsoft Azure stack was a key announcement at Inspire – and it caught the eyes of many Kiwi partners.
Keith Archibald, Revera head of innovation, dubbed it ‘the most exciting development' at the event.
“We're really looking forward to strapping on this more powerful booster rocket to our already in-market Apollo programme,” Archibald says.
Revera has been involved in the Azure Stack early adopter programme from day one, and Archibald says the company sees Azure Stack as a key platform for its customers.
“Normally you can't have your cake and eat it too, but with what we're building with Apollo powered by Azure Stack our customers will get the best of both worlds: all the leading technology from the Azure Cloud, but the option to choose to have some or all of the features deployed in-country for compliance reasons, or simply because they want to bolt them on to existing applications with low latency,” he says.
“The opportunity to provide further Azure consistent goodness in-country and help boost the launch of our customers NZ inc. digital journey is really exciting.
Mark Atherton, DXC Technology account general manager for NZ Cloud, also highlighted the Azure stack announcement as ‘hugely exciting'.
“We always need to remember that the client is why we are here, and the Azure stack opportunity in New Zealand is to bring another piece of the hybrid puzzle to help us solution the best outcomes for our clients,” Atherton says.
“Combined with the Sydney instance of Azure public, extending this into New Zealand through the stack and being able to then help clients execute a transformation strategy to the best fitting solution is really exciting.
“IT has moved on from a commodity shootout, and embracing clients journeys and ensuring you are best placed to help is key.
Datacom too, is excited about the Azure stack announcement, with chief executive Greg Davidson, noting “It enables customers to immediately take advantage of public cloud functionality without the real barriers of complex migration, concern about compliance and latency.
He says the Azure stack forms an ‘important addition' to Datacom's hybrid cloud ecosystem.
“We are thrilled to be well down track of planning deployment for early adopters.
The new go-to-market combination for Office 365, Skype for Business and other workplace and collaboration tools into what will be labelled Microsoft 365, is also a winner for Datacom.
“We have a separately branded digitally marketed software-as-a-service offering for small business launching very soon across the geographies in which we operate, including New Zealand,” Davidson says.
“For larger organisations, we think the Microsoft 365 offering should enable easier implementations and integration of these core services in multi-location multi-country situations.
Going vertical, going real world
A renewed focus on verticals also won the thumbs up from Kiwi partners.
Ratnakar Garikipati, LeapThought Group chief executive, says while the renewed focus was ‘formalised' at Inspire ‘we have been witnessing this change first hand form Microsoft's leadership for the past year – the co-sell initiatives that have been set in motion in South East Asia and other markets specifically over the past year are an example of this.
“We walk away from this conference with new revenue lines that we've identified, more streamlined GTM plans for different markets, and greater understanding of areas where our products and offerings can be more tightly integrated to unlock greater potential that is in store,” Garikipati says.
Brady Cox, Provoke Solutions country manager, says the vertical focus was one of two significant organisational changes made by Microsoft demonstrate their commitment to further align both customer and the partner community.
“Their new focus on six key industry verticals reflects the demand we see to truly understand our customers and build tailored, outcome based solutions,” Cox says.
“Aligning both the account and technical teams to then specialise against these verticals means that there will be even more useful presales resources to support the partner community.
“Further to this, they have created a channel manager role, which is the walk of the "partner first" talk we continue to hear.
Grant Houseman, Sable37 New Zealand general manager, says the recent industry alignment of the Microsoft partner organisation is a ‘massive' driver for Sable37's growth.
“Sable37 have built leading industry teams for several years. Microsoft's focus on Retail , Public Sector and Manufacturing align perfectly with our go to market models,” Houseman says.
He dubbed the way Microsoft solutions are being built by partners globally to solve important global problems as ‘inspiring' saying he was ‘blown away' by the stories at some of the Inspire keynotes – ‘particularly how tens of thousands of HIV deaths in Africa are prevented through solutions that have been imagined on the Microsoft platform'.
“Sable37 New Zealand is very excited about our future , our close partnership with Microsoft New Zealand and most important of all - the significant problems we can solve together,” Houseman says.
Real-world uses were a feature of this year's conference, notes Kristy Brown, Fusion5 CRX New Zealand general manager.
Brown says not only could attendees see real world uses , but the real differences being made thorugh technology.
“From 3D printed prosthetics at an affordable price to specialist eye surgery being performed by non-specialist surgeons guided through the process by experts, in countries where these procedures simply wouldn't have been possible - it's an incredible time to be involved in the technology sector,” she says.
Tom Fuyala, 11Ants chief executive, says the bulk of the changes signalled by Microsoft were looked on very positively by 11Ants, with Fuyala noting that the continued alignment around industry verticals as well as continued efforts to further align sellers around ISVs should be helpful in further putting the full weight of the Microsoft machine behind companies like 11Ants.
“If properly executed, this will prove net positive for specialist ISVs in New Zealand and indeed around the globe,” Fuyala says.
Microsoft - reimagined
Says John Harrop, Softsource sales director: “Washington DC Inspire is Microsoft reimagined, to me this week has been more about Microsoft's renewed focus and drive then product or technical.
“Sure the products are developing but the story is really that Microsoft are changing the way they go to market, four motions for delivery and six market segments for focus, a 4.5T opportunity and a new Microsoft open for business attitude.
Anne Hall, ITagree chief executive, says “One Commercial Partner and ‘Build with, Go to Market with, and Sell with' is exciting for us. It gives a clear focus on the commercial growth aspects and on customer and customer outcomes.
“For a New Zealand based company and ecosystem enabler like ITagree, this focus supports our worldwide delivery,” she says.
Meanwhile, Simon Scott, Acquire director summed the event – or at least day two – more poetically: “I'm high in the stratosphere floating on clouds of overlay apps and services built to support Azure and the collective thunder storm that is Microsoft.
“There are brainiacs flapping their wings, confusing my eyes and dazzling my ear drums. This place is exciting with opportunity and collaborative spin.
“I get the urgent feeling that we need to be better and just go faster to keep up with the tide. I've got new ideas and concepts to rationalise and explore. It's great.